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Car Service City Driving Growth And Bucking The Trends

Car Service City has proven itself to be a robust and resilient operation, having not only survived but thrived in a tough economic climate. With the economy once again on shaky ground, Entrepreneur spoke to company founder Grant Brady to find out exactly what makes the brand such a solid investment.

GG van Rooyen




Vital stats

Car Service City was founded in 2004. As you undoubtedly know, the global economic crisis hit in 2008, a mere four years after the business was launched. For a young company this is a worst-case scenario.

Establishing and growing a business is hard even at the best of times. When the economy contracts, it can become nearly impossible. Indeed, many companies failed during this time.

But Car Service City didn’t fail. In fact it flourished. Over the last decade or so, the brand has grown massively, now boasting more than 60 franchises nationwide. How did the company manage to buck the trend? Entrepreneur spoke to Car Service City founder Grant Brady to find out.

Car Service City has been around for more than ten years now, and it was still relatively young when the 2008 recession hit. What makes the business so robust and resilient?

We believe our business is recession-proof for two reasons. First, road transport is the main method of transport for South Africans. Because we use our cars so much, we need to keep them in top condition. The maintenance of vehicles is therefore key to keeping them on the road and running smoothly.

This is particularly important when you consider the cost of fuel. Well maintained vehicles will always have a better fuel consumption than their poorly maintained counterparts. Our offering therefore services a large need in the consumer market. We have affordable service guaranteed, the best service at the best price is what we do.

Related: Car Service City’s Success After Switching To Franchising

According to South African statistics, the live vehicle population for cars and station wagons is nearly seven million, which means seven million drivers need affordable vehicle maintenance and service offerings. Car Service City’s mandate to say what we do, and do what we say, along with top-class mechanics and exceptional and affordable service, makes us a strong brand in a world where ‘one-man-band’ mechanics have earned a poor reputation.

Even early on, we managed to create a recognised brand that consumers knew and trusted. We spent a lot of time crafting a marketing strategy that would make Car Service City a recognisable entity. A good example is our ubiquitous ‘flyer guys’, who hand out flyers at traffic lights.

Just about everyone knows what Car Service City’s flyer guys look like. This is one way in which we created a strong brand. We’re much larger and more established now, but we still believe that marketing is crucial. Building a brand is an ongoing process.

Another reason Car Service City is a robust and resilient brand is the thorough and careful selection process that all potential franchisees go through. We don’t necessarily demand loads of business or automotive knowledge, because our head office ensures that each branch is equipped with the trained operators necessary to carry out what our brand says we will deliver, which is affordable service guaranteed.

Company culture is also incredibly important for us. We spend a lot of time making sure that anyone who enters the organisation shares our passion and commitment. It’s all about culture fit. We’re looking for people who will embrace our systems and processes and really live the brand.

A third factor is head office support to franchisees. Any franchise business is only as good as its franchisees. You can’t succeed if your franchisees don’t succeed, which is why we offer training to franchisees and their staff on an ongoing basis. We also make sure that they keep up with the latest trends and stay at the forefront of technological advancements. You can’t allow yourself to become complacent. You always need to move forward, otherwise you’ll get left behind.

Growth that isn’t carefully managed can be impressive in the short-term, but can end in disaster when it comes to the long-term. What is Car Service City’s approach to sustainable growth?

car service city

We have shown very good growth over the last ten or 11 years, but we’ve always been careful not to make growth our only goal. It’s easy to just bring a bunch of new franchisees on board and grow your network quickly, but that kind of growth isn’t sustainable. As mentioned, we make sure that we choose franchisees who will fit in well with the organisation and have a good chance of making a success of things. This takes time, but it’s worth it.

At head office, we never let the growth of the network outstrip the other aspects of the business. It’s important that we are able to supply the necessary help and support to our franchisees, and this means having the right structures, systems and processes in place. So we try to let our ability to provide full support to the entirety of our network dictate the speed of our expansion.

We could grow quicker if we were more aggressive, but we are interested in managed growth that is sustainable.

The group has managed to grow its footprint year-on-year since inception, and we are on track with our growth strategy. We currently have 61 outlets nationwide, and this will hopefully increase in the coming year.

Related: Should You Purchase An Existing Franchise?

Car Service City seems to have a business model that would be more resilient than most. After all, people need to have their cars serviced, even during tough economic times. Is this true? How do you view Car Service City’s position, given the current economic climate?

This is certainly true. We’re in a great position, in that our business model works, regardless of whether the economy is up or down. When times are tough, people hang onto their cars for longer. They’re more careful with their big investments, which means they service and maintain their vehicles better.

When times are good, they sell their cars, which then enter the second-hand market and still need servicing. So we offer something that is always in demand, which puts us in a great position.

I also believe that people tend to gravitate towards brands that they know and trust, especially when times are tough, and Car Service City is thankfully a brand that resonates with consumers. Through our consistent offering and affordable service, marketing and excellent customer service we have created a strong brand presence throughout South Africa. Car Service City is a name that people know and trust.

From head office we ensure everyone has the necessary skills to provide affordable service to customers. It’s up to us to ensure that franchisees and their employees are able to deliver on our brand promise — affordable service guaranteed.

As a franchisor, how do you view your role when it comes to assisting in the success of franchisees? How do you ensure the success of franchisees, even when times are tough?


As stated earlier, we don’t believe in just offering initial training, and then leaving franchisees to fend for themselves. We offer continuous training, and also help with the day-to-day running of a franchise by providing proven systems and processes that simplify things.

That said, we realise that franchisees are unique. Needs are different. So we try to help in any way we can. We assess each franchised branch individually. 

How do you see the business evolving over the next five or ten years? What will the industry look like? What will Car Service City look like?

The automotive industry is always evolving, and we’re determined to keep up with this change. Car Service City will adapt its systems and processes as required by the industry. Because of the culture of our business, we are able to stay ahead of the curve and stay up-to-date with industry and technology changes.

As for Car Service City itself, we will continue our growth and expansion. However, we’re determined to make sure that this is managed growth.

Related: Owning A Franchise – Good Idea Or Bad Idea?

What, in your opinion, makes a Car Service City franchise a solid investment?


We’re fortunate in that we operate within something of a recession-proof industry, but it’s about more than that. In my opinion, one of the biggest reasons that Car Service City is such a solid investment is the level of support offered by head office. The help and support we offer stretches across marketing, IT, human resources, legal, branding, etc.

We ensure that franchisees are able to keep their promises to their customers. Head office ensures that staff are skilled and equipped to handle their roles at Car Service City branches across the country, from managers to secretaries and mechanics.

Solid investments require solid foundations. We focus on getting the basics right. South Africa’s vehicle-dependent environment means that we offer a much-needed product, but the reason we are chosen above our competitors is that consumers feel that we are trustworthy, and that their cars will be serviced and maintained without being taken advantage of or ripped off.

Another reason Car Service City is successful is its strong brand. Having a recognisable name that consumers know is very valuable and providing a service that there is a high demand for in South Africa means that we are a name associated with affordability and trustworthiness. It just makes it so much easier to get up and running. You don’t need to ‘prove’ yourself to the same extent that an independent operation does. You have the strength of the name behind you.

Finally, Car Service City provides a proven business model that offers potential franchisees a truly excellent chance at success. Over the last decade, we’ve greatly refined our systems and processes. The recipe works; new franchisees just need to follow it.

What does a franchise cost?

Training and software R4 000 excl. VAT
Marketing fee 2,5% of TO p/m
Management fee 5% of TO p/m
Establishment cost R950 000 to

R1,3 million

Working capital R150 000
Average time to break-even Three months
Total footprint 61
For more information,

email, visit, or call +27 (0)11 883 3687.

GG van Rooyen is the deputy editor for Entrepreneur Magazine South Africa. Follow him on Twitter.



3 Core Strategies For Building Successful Franchise Organisations

How to attract potential franchisees to invest in your business.




The most common questions I hear from franchisors are usually related to growth strategy. In other words, what are the core strategies that differentiate the successful from the mediocre?

Strong leadership determines the overall success of the organisation, but how can this be defined or broken down to actionable strategies? People often ask me how we created a franchise growth strategy that enabled us to grow to 150 units in less than three years. This is the secret sauce! When I coach my franchise executive clients, we begin with three core strategies.

As I described in my book, Franchise Bible 8th Edition, The Upside Down Pyramid strategy sets the pace for everything since it is a core belief. This will get the company moving in the right direction and keep the focus strong as franchise owners are added to the community. The Three Decision Lens Philosophy then kicks in to make sure the company stays on track and makes good solid decisions that will benefit the franchisees and the overall growth of the organisation. Lastly, the Franchise Glue creates a strategy for long-term maintenance that inspires aggressive growth and peak performance.

Related: Selling Your First Franchise? Consider These Key Pointers

The following are the core leadership strategies that I identified in Entrepreneur Magazine’s Franchise Bible 8th Edition.

The Upside Down Pyramid

This strategy is a paradigm shift from the common corporate organizational structure. Typically, you see the leader at the top of the pyramid governing over the team members, which trickles down to the employees and eventually the customers.

Franchising is a very unique business model and is very different from a traditional corporation. The primary difference is that the franchise owners are independent business operators, not employees. The Upside Down Pyramid strategy flips that model on its head by placing the leader(s) at the bottom, bearing the weight of the company infrastructure on their shoulders. Franchise owners then are viewed more like the customer and supported accordingly.

The Three Decision Lens

Every decision a franchisor makes has Legal, Practical and Political implications, so these three factors have to be considered whenever a decision is made. Making good decisions is mission critical to the successful growth of a franchise organisation. Many franchisors have stumbled or even failed because of poor decisions that negatively impacted their franchisees.

The Three Decision Lens Philosophy is tool that enables a franchisor to consider the total impact of their choices before the decision is made.

The Franchise Glue

Franchise Glue is everything a franchisor does that sticks the franchisees to them. Ongoing support and training, buying power, technology tools, innovation, events and other programmes and systems that endear the franchise owners to the brand. These are the reasons that franchise owners stay with the brand and have no problem paying ongoing royalties.

Once these three strategies are implemented and the leadership spoke is in place, we can build the remaining spokes which are marketing, operations, finance and technology to head for the “hockey stick” growth of 100 units and beyond.

Related: 3 Ways You Can Innovate And Improve As A Franchisee

Like any other business strategy, the most important factor is your willingness to buy in and execute. The best game plan in the world is useless if it is not put in to action. Building a healthy and thriving franchise organisation is much like exercise. Long term and consistent exercise programmes generally lead to a healthy person.

I will be posting a series of articles that will break these three strategies down in more detail including real world examples and tips for implementation. This will allow you and your team to focus on one strategy at a time and work on implementation steps. Stay tuned over the next several weeks and try working these strategies in to your franchise business model and see how it impacts your franchise community.

This article was originally posted here on

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The Secret Sauce To Great Franchise Leadership

The upside down pyramid puts the franchisee at the center of everyone’s effort. Success follows.




I am often asked to share the secrets of franchise success with my clients and audiences of franchise executives as I travel the country spreading the Franchise Bible strategies.


The most critical of the three core strategies is what I call the upside down pyramid strategy. This is more than a catch phrase or slogan. It must become a true belief in order for this strategy to affect a franchise organization for the better. Lets start with some basic facts to clarify.

What it is                              

The upside down pyramid is a servant leadership model that makes sure that franchise owners always come first. This must be genuine for all members of your team.

Related: 3 Challenges To Establishing A Franchise System And How To Overcome Them

Franchising is different than any other business model in this way. A franchise organisation simply cannot thrive unless the entire corporate team is on board with this commitment. If it’s not, it would be like a medical team where some members simply did not care about healing the patient. It is a non-negotiable.

What it is not

This strategy is not a hand-holding philosophy that rewards lazy or non-compliant franchisees. One of the exciting outcomes from this system is seeing the franchise owners step up and go above and beyond the call of duty when they feel truly appreciated, valued and respected by the franchisor. I have seen amazing things happen from franchise communities that felt connected and part of the bigger picture.

The challenge

Many franchise organisation executives have a lot of experience as traditional employers so they tend to try to “manage” their franchise owners as though they are employees. In most cases this is the beginning of the most common problem that I call the traditional pyramid model with the boss on top.

The key to remember at this point is the reality that the franchise owners are not employees of the company. In fact, the exact opposite is actually the case. The franchisees invested their hard earned money into the franchise company and pay an ongoing royalty as well. This means that they are the customers of the franchisor and the franchisor should value them as such.

How do you implement this strategy?

I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly in the franchise world. I can usually sense the company culture pretty quickly when I am among the franchise executive and support team. It is no surprise that the most successful franchise brands have a pretty solid grasp on this strategy. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Train: Introduce this strategy to your executive and support team and give them the opportunity to ask questions and learn. Remember that this may be a bit of a paradigm shift for some, so they may need time to get it down.
  • Reinforce: Use ongoing reminders during your meetings, training sessions and conferences to keep the ball rolling. Your system must be based on things that you and your team will do consistently for a long period of time. A short burst of change followed by a return to the former status quo doesn’t work, so make sure you can commit and stick with it.
  • Insist on buy-in: Everyone on your executive, training and support teams must buy in to this commitment for it to work. You have heard that one bad apple spoils the whole bunch. This is very true within a franchise organisation. You may have to replace team members if they refuse to genuinely commit.

Related: Col’ Cacchio: A Passion For Pizza

Leadership tip

You have also heard the saying that the fish starts to rot at the head. The common denominator that I see in failing franchise organisations is almost always due to poor leadership. I often say that a decent business model with great leadership will usually thrive and a great business model with lousy leadership will usually fail.

Don’t feel bad if you are not the best leader for your business. I have seen business founders step aside and hire in leadership experts to run with their creation. Knowing that someone else is a better leader than you for your franchise organisation is a sign of great discernment and wisdom. If you are not sure just ask your franchise owners to give you a grade as the leader. I asked a franchise CEO recently if he would get an A from his franchisees and he said, “Probably not.” I advised him to get back to work and make sure that he can earn that A.

This article was originally posted here on

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Get Your Franchise Running Smoothly – Even When You’re Not There

Does the thought of taking time off from your franchise outlet make you nervous? Then you have to learn to run your business instead of letting it run you.

Diana Albertyn




“A sign of a successful business is one that can operate without your physical presence 24/7,” says Brad Sugars, start-up expert, author and founder of ActionCOACH. While your franchise systems and operations are designed to run smoothly and consistently, is your staff trained to be productive in your absence?

“Franchises are already by nature systematised operations, so it boils down to how you as a business owner hire and train people to get the necessary jobs done,” says Sugars.

If you know a sick day will cause havoc in your store, an assessment of how you’re running your business is needed. Are you really running a successful franchise if things fall about without your supervision? Take a step back and consider the following steps to manage your franchise without it controlling your life. Pretty soon you could book that vacation.

Determine your role in the franchise

Are you managing the franchise, taking orders, doing admin and handling every other aspect of the business? Then you’re not hiring the right people, because those roles should be filled by people who can be left to carry them out unsupervised.

Related: How To Write An Operations Manual For Your Franchise

“And if you don’t have the right people for the job then it might be time to start hiring, so you can free up your franchise’s most valuable resource – you,” says Pieter Scholtz, co-Master Licensee for ActionCOACH in Southern Africa.

“You need to get an idea of how you can hire people to take repetitive or administrative tasks away from you. Ask yourself: ‘Do I really need to be doing this?’” says Sugars. Your business cannot run optimally if you’re the single most-knowledgeable and capable person there.

Lead with clarity

You have long-term goals for your business, perhaps even acquiring more locations and running multiple units. While growth is good, you need to share the load and ensure everyone employed in your business is working towards the same goals, otherwise, it’ll be difficult to get there. Sugars suggests asking yourself the following:

  • How will you make your vision a reality?
  • What makes you different from other franchisees and business owners?
  • What kind of team do you want to recruit and create?
  • How does all of this deliver value to your customer?

Conveying your vision can help ensure employees know how to get to the end-goal faster and more efficiently.

Related: 3 Steps To Ensure Your Franchisees Flourish Your Support System

Plan for long-term cash flow

Loyal customers ensure a constant flow of cash through the franchise and this requires exceptional service and the building of strong relationships. “Target your top-spending customers and establish a good relationship with them for long-term cash flow,” Sugars suggests.

Although the broader campaigns are covered by the marketing fee you’re paying to your franchisor, it’s wise to focus on your local’s tastes and suggestions when looking to deliver an experience worth returning for.

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